Fertilizer: It's not illegal to buy, but you must know how and when to apply!

Reading a bag of fertilizer can be tricky, but it's important to understand the product you're using to ensure proper fertilization of plants. It is essential that gardeners practice and are aware of how much fertilizer is necessary.

Research your area's fertilizer ordinance regulations

The first step is to research local fertilizer ordinances in your area! For example, Miami-Dade County adopted a Florida-friendly fertilizer use on urban landscapes ordinance in April 2021. These ordinances are in place because when fertilizer is not properly managed, it can run off into nearby bodies of water.

Check your calendar

Skip the fertilizer in Miami-Dade County during the summer rainy season, May 15 through Oct. 31, when nutrients do not have time to be absorbed by plant life before being washed away by frequent rains. Fertilizer runoff can cause an overabundance of nutrients in the water, leading to algae blooms, dissolved oxygen depletion, and decreased water quality.

In Miami-Dade County…

If it’s between May 15 and October 31, don’t apply! 

Read the fertilizer label

Next, read the label on the bag, as it will list the type of fertilizer and concentrations of the nutrients, nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) it contains. In Miami-Dade County, fertilizers must be phosphorus-free, as our soil naturally has enough to sustain plant life.

In Miami-Dade County…
If the fertilizer contains phosphorus, don’t apply!

Additionally, using a fertilizer mix that is at least 65% slow-release nitrogen is required to avoid a big release of nutrients during a rainstorm. This also increases the likelihood that your fertilizer will be used by the plants.

In Miami-Dade County…
If the fertilizer does not have at least 65% slow-release nitrogen, don’t apply!


When applying the fertilizer:

  1. Spread it evenly over the soil surface.
  2. Water your lawn after application to help fertilizer reach the roots.
  3. Watch your lawn grow!

The amount of fertilizer you should apply to an area depends on several factors, such as the type of fertilizer you are using, the type of soil you have, the size of the site, and the desired results. In Miami-Dade County, there are limits on how much nitrogen can be applied to an area of a given size. See section 18C4(C)(3) of the Florida-friendly fertilizer use on urban landscapes ordinance for more information.

In Miami-Dade County…

If the area you want to fertilize is within 20 feet of a water body or storm drain, don’t apply!

Excerpt from the Florida-friendly fertilizer use on urban landscapes ordinance


(C) Limitations on nitrogen. It shall be a violation of this section to apply fertilizers containing nitrogen to turf or landscape plants in concentrations, rates, or frequencies inconsistent with the following:

(a) No more than four pounds of nitrogen per 1,000-square-foot area per calendar year; and

 (b) No more than one pound of nitrogen per 1,000-square-foot area per application of solid fertilizer; and 

(c) No more than one-half pound of nitrogen per 1,000-square-foot area per application of liquid fertilizer; and 

(d) Granular fertilizers containing nitrogen shall contain no less than 65 percent slow-release nitrogen per guaranteed analysis label.

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